Many people dread having the estate planning talk with their family. However, this talk involves important topics like what you plan to leave them in your will, who will succeed you in the family business and who will inherit the family home.
The holiday season can actually be one of the best times to have these discussions. If the family is scattered throughout the country, this may be one of the rare occasions when you’re all together. The estate planning talk certainly shouldn’t be the focus of your holiday gathering, but it’s worth taking a bit of time out to take care of it so that everyone is on the same page.
Following are some things that can make this discussion easier on everyone:
— If you’ve already had some documents prepared, go over those with your family and make sure that they have copies for the discussion. This can help avoid misinterpretation and disputes later.
— Take charge of the discussion and keep it civil. If you don’t think that’s going to be possible given your specific family dynamic, you may want to have your estate planning attorney facilitate it.
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— Be prepared to explain your decisions. Under the best of circumstances, you’ve already had some discussions about who will be assuming certain roles, such as managing the estate and taking over your business, as well as how your inheritance and large assets like the family home are being divided.
— Assuming that you still plan to be around for awhile, remind your family that things can and likely will change over the years given changes in the family or other circumstances. This need not be a one-and-done discussion.
Too many people never explain their estate planning decisions to their family or other heirs and beneficiaries. Worse, a study last year found that nearly two-thirds of people don’t even have a will. This is only going to lead to confusion, family arguments and likely higher fees and taxes for your loved ones after you’re gone. Further, it can keep the legacy you intended to leave from becoming a reality.
If you need advice on talking with your family about your estate plan, your attorney can provide guidance based on your unique situation. He or she likely has had experience with many and varied family dynamics that can assist you.
Source: LearnVest, “A Family Affair: 6 Tips for Having the Estate Planning Talk,” Sheryl Nance-Nash, accessed Nov. 20, 2015
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